What happens when you cancel your Office subscription?

I had an Office 365 subscription and for various reasons I decided to cancel it. Some people may be wondering what happens to the Office programs you have installed and what happens to your documents, spreadsheets and other files. Here’s what happened to me.

My subscription expired two days ago. To check the status of your account, go to OneDrive.com or Outlook.com in a web browser, click the button in the top left corner of the page and click the Office Online tile.

 Microsoft Office subscription

You are taken to the Office page and in the top right hand corner of the page is a menu. Click My Account.

 Microsoft Office

Here you can see that my account has expired. At any time I can set up an auto-renew subscription and continue using Office applications as I did before.

 Office Account

What happens to your Office files?

Nothing. All you need to do is to find another application or web service to open them. You could put your Office documents on OneDrive (don’t forget only 15GB is available free), and then open them in Word Online, Excel Online and so on.

 Microsoft Office web app

These web applications are lightweight alternatives to the Office applications installed on the disk drive and they are free. No subscription is needed. Not every feature is available in the online web apps, but all the basic ones are and Office apps on the web are surprisingly good. Some people will find that they have all the features they need.

Related: How to cancel or change Microsoft Office subscriptions

Another way to open your files is to install LibreOffice, which is free of charge. This is an alternative office suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, and so on. It loads and saves Microsoft Office files. It supports most of the features in Microsoft Office and unless you have very complex Office documents, you will find that they open almost perfectly in LibreOffice. They may require a tweak here and there, but for the sort of documents I create, LibreOffice works fine with them.

In the past I have started writing in Word, switched to LibreOffice and edited the document, switched back to Word and continued.

I frequently use an Apple Mac and used Mac apps to load and save Office documents created on Windows PCs. Office files have become a standard that many programs can read and write.

What happens to Office applications?

On day one of my expired subscription nothing happened and Office worked as it normally did. On day two I got a message to say that my Office subscription had expired. I ignore the buttons and click the cross in the top right corner. Word continues to work as normal and I am writing this post in my expired copy of Word right now.

 Office expired subscription

Whether Word will continue to work forever in expired mode is doubtful. I suspect that Microsoft is just giving me time to reconsider my subscription before the applications stop working completely. Here is what Microsoft says on the subject:

Once your subscription expires, you’ll be able to view or print documents, but you won’t be able to edit existing ones or create new ones. You could use the free Office Web Apps on OneDrive for basic editing until you get a new subscription. Any documents you saved to OneDrive will remain, and you’ll still be able to get to them.”

Related: How to uninstall Office 2013 properly

So presumably Office will be switched into read-only mode sooner or later and the applications on the disk drive will load documents, but only for viewing and printing. As pointed out above, your files are not locked in any way and any application that can read and write Office files can be used instead of Microsoft Office.

 Expired Office subscription

I have no doubt that some people have such complex documents that no other application can read them properly, but you can always try alternatives before cancelling your Office subscription and confirm that the files are OK. LibreOffice is particularly good, and there is WordPerfect Office, Kingsoft Office, Ability Office, OpenOffice, SoftMaker FreeOffice, SSuite Office, and more.

The end of your subscription is not the disaster you might think.


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Update: It is day 27 of my expired subscription and Office still works!

18 Comments on What happens when you cancel your Office subscription?

  1. Hello Roland, it is now October – do you have an update on this? For how long after your Office subscription ended were you able to edit things?

  2. Word, Excel and PowerPoint still work and they just display a warning that my subscription has expired. Apart from that, I can’t see much difference. I mostly use Google Docs these days, but I still use Word occasionally without problems.

    Outlook is a different story and it is pretty much useless without a subscription. You can still use Outlook.com in a browser to send and receive email because that’s a free service anyway, you just can’t use the Outlook program.

    I haven’t got the 2016 upgrade, which would have come with a subscription, but I’m happy with 2013 anyway.

  3. A year later, more or less, since I stopped subscribing and both Windows and Office 2013 were automatically updated by Windows Update. I am now running Office 2016 on Windows 10, even though my subscription was stopped a year ago. Not everything works, but Word, which is the only application I use these days, is fine. Excel and PowerPoint are OK too. It seems that Microsoft lets you keep the apps once the subscription expires.

  4. Thanks for the article and updates! They were very helpful. My Office subscription just expired recently and I’m deciding whether I should test how long it’ll last or if I’ll give in and renew.

    • Now I have my own update about the situation. I posted my original comment in March of 2016, 7 months ago, and just today Microsoft Office disabled its features so I can no longer use it.
      …I probably should update it in some way now

  5. Geraldine Mansfield // 2016/09/21 at 13:23 // Reply

    I think you will find the newer windows will stop working, We bought a new computer last year, windows expired and I ignored the messages as the cost of renewing it is too high for me. It gave me a cutoff date of 16th September but today it will not let me do anything. Yes I can go on line and use the free apt but unless you have good broadband and we do not it is too slow. Am moving over to Apache Open office instead.

    • I suspect that whether you can continue using Office depends on when it was installed and how long you have had it. I can still use Word and Excel even though I’ve not had a subscription for 18 months.

      Don’t get OpenOffice, many developers have abandoned it and the project might soon be cancelled according to rumours. Get LibreOffice instead. It’s the same thing, but actively developed and supported.

  6. I had a free one year Office 365 subscription in an Pad I bought. When it expired, it halted my whole Microsoft account, even though I had another paid Office licence. Problem is I can’t find that other licence code anymore. How to activate that original Office again?

    • Microsoft accounts are free and do not stop when you quit the Office subscription. Microsoft free services include Office Web Apps, OneNote, Outlook mail and calendar, OneDrive online storage, and more. Go to onedrive.com to access all the Microsoft free stuff.

  7. Actually I want to know how to use Outlook and sync it to my devices. It did sync fine before Office 365 trial in that one pad. I didn’t even installed Office 365 to any other device just to avoid this kind of problems where I am just now.

    • Outlook (the program) stops working when you stop paying the Office subscription. Outlook.com (the website) continues to work and is a free service. Calendar, OneNote, OneDrive and Office Web Apps are also free services that continue to work. You can access these on the web using a browser. Any app that syncs with the free services – mail, calendar, notes – will work.

  8. Thanks Roland for your answers. I understand all that.

    What bothers me is that, I had/have a legal Office 10 in one computer. When Office 365 trial expired in another computer, this expiration seems to jam that my other computer running it’s Office 10.

    Do I have to re-subscribe again with my Office 10, is that the only alternative? It is a MS HUP assembly which I can’t use anymore.

    • It sounds like Office has got in a muddle with the Home Use Program and the trial version. You wouldn’t normally have both, so I’m guessing that when the trial ended, it stopped all versions on all computers linked to your Microsoft Account.

      I would either get your company to provide another HUP version or subscribe yourself. Get the 5-license version and you can install the latest version of Office on all your computers.

  9. Office Outlook is running again,
    I added one more time outlook.com account to Office 10 Outlook, that re-established the connection. I also re-installed Hotmail connector. Android phone also started to sync mails again, although all earlier ones are still lost, except some very old ones.

    Office 365 package was also removed.

  10. ►►RELATIVELY NO DIFFERENCE◄◄

    Hi, I have had Office 365 for 3.5 years now (since May 2013). It has expired twice, and there has been virtually no difference in service (during either instance). The most notable feature that has been deactivated relates to the “Dictionary”.

    I have Outlook 365 installed on two machines. Here are the specs:

    I.) HP Laptop
    ► Windows 7 Home Premium
    ► 64-Bit OS
    ► Service Pack 1
    ► Owned since May 2013

    II.) Lenovo Laptop
    ► Windows 7 Professional Edition
    ► 64-Bit OS
    ► Service Pack 1
    ► Owned since July 2013

    Note: I use Excel, Word, Outlook roughly 80 hours per week. I use all of them heavily (Power user of Word + Outlook, Expert with MS Excel).
    Note: I hardly ever install any outside software.
    Note: I hardly ever install any Windows updates.

    I hope that helps.

  11. Lynn Coleman // 2016/12/14 at 04:18 // Reply

    I can’t do anything, can’t write a letter or even edit them. I need to find a free way to use word. My daughter has a subscription from college. I don’t know if I can go on hers

    • Use the free Microsoft Word web app at onedrive.com it has a lot of the features of Word and works in a browser. LibreOffice can read Word files and runs on the PC.

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